One to watch: Paul O’Grady’s Animal Orphans - ITV, 9pm
You can run but you can’t hide from Paul O’Grady.
He’s everywhere at the moment, and luckily for us animal-loving softies, he’s usually accompanied by a furry friend or three.
This latest series has taken the presenter’s own passion for animals and blown it up on a much bigger scale, sending him to South Africa and Zambia to meet animals that have been orphaned in the wild. But like all good things, it must come to an end, and in tonight’s final episode, Paul is at Chipembele Animal Rescue, where he meets Douglas, a hippo calf who was found at five months old wandering alone near the Zambezi River. Douglas soon takes a shine to Paul, and the two even go for a paddle in a nearby pond.
He also meets a baby giraffe called Melmin at Moholoholo, an animal rehabilitation centre. She was abandoned by her parents and brought into the centre when she was just four hours old. However, Paul finds that bottle-feeding milk to a giraffe isn’t the easiest of tasks. But the effort has been worth it and Paul watches as Melmin is released out of the centre and in to the reserve.
Paul says: “She’s glorious, she’s stupid but she’s glorious. I’ve only known her for five minutes but I’ll be sad to see her go.”
Plus, Wendy the warthog is released into the wild after a long rehabilitation programme, and Paul spends time with his favourite baby elephant, Nakala, as well as learning about vultures, which are endangered species in Africa.
Paul, more often than not, may be smiling and cooing over the animals during filming, but he’s adamant something needs to be done about the reasons behind them being orphaned in the first place.
He explains: “In 10 years time there are going to be no elephants or rhinos in Africa, that’s what they’re saying now. Everyone said that to me, everybody I met said in 10 years time they will be extinct because even on the big parks the poachers are getting in. And all this is to make bangles and those carvings from the tusks. It’s wanton destruction.”
But the time he spent there certainly made a difference. In fact, after he fell in love with Nakala the elephant, it looked likely we wouldn’t see Paul back in Blighty.
He explains: “Seriously it was up for debate whether I was coming back honestly, because I did contemplate it. I thought I’ll stay till Christmas with him and see how he’s doing. Because you have to look after them 24/7. You have to sleep with them and everything and you get so involved and when you see them cry and things like that... I used to have to wash his bum and everything and he was like a kid he hated it and I’d be there saying ‘it happens to us all, it comes to us all, come here’.”
And so if he ever fancies a change in career?
“It’s a nice job,” Paul admits. “I mean they work really hard and it’s very upsetting what they have to deal with but it’s so worthwhile as well you get a real kick out of it, you really do.”